music in the park san jose

As they wielded the budget cutting ax Monday night, Morgan Hill
School Board trustees slashed nearly $900,000 from next year’s
budget in the form of programs and positions. Cuts did not include
their own $240 per month stipend.
As they wielded the budget cutting ax Monday night, Morgan Hill School Board trustees slashed nearly $900,000 from next year’s budget in the form of programs and positions. Cuts did not include their own $240 per month stipend.

“I’ll take it in the shorts, to use the vernacular,” Board President George Panos said as he voted to cut $22,000 in stipends from the 2004-2005 budget.

The vote was 4-2 against cutting the stipends, with Trustees Shelle Thomas, Amina Khemici, Mike Hickey and Jan Masuda voting against and Trustees Del Fosterand Panos, voting yes.

“I believe this has to be an individual decision,” Thomas said. “If a board member wants to make a donation of that amount, that should be left up to them as an individual. I’m not sure what this says to anyone looking at running (for election to the board in November). When you tell me I’m not worth a cent, it bothers me.”

Trustees are faced with the task of cutting $1.6 million from the budget for next year. During the regular meeting March 22, trustees were looking at a deficit of $2.8 million. Deputy Superintendent Bonnie Tognazzini told trustees Monday night that she and the Business Services department had taken a closer look at the budget, and found several things that change that projection by $800,000.

The freeze of school site budgets last month is one factor, Tognazzini said. Expenses were down because of this, and the district’s ending balance may be greater than estimated. There has also been a rise in ADA, or average daily attendance funding. The loss of state money from students not attending school was quite high in the fourth and fifth month of the school year, but Tognazzini told trustees Monday night that, based on seventh month information, the district is anticipating an additional 52 students at $1,352 each, in ADA.

Despite the good news, trustees still had to look at cutting valued programs and positions.

Trustees cut $893,000 from next year’s budget, including: $255,000 in a district office restructure, which includes a clerical position; $106,000 by eliminating one school administrator, which position was not determined Monday night; $50,000 in travel, conference and mileage reimbursements; $22,000 in board stipends; $14,000 in supply carryover from the custodians; $390,000 in categorical carryovers; $56,000 in classified staff reductions and a 5 percent cut in the technology program.

While cutting just over half of the $1.6 million Monday night, trustees did not take action on or rejected several controversial cuts: the $40,000 for the Live Oak Associated Student Body (ASB) clerk was not cut in a 3-3 vote, with Panos, Foster and Masuda voting against; the reduction of a nursing position, which would have left the district with only one full time nurse, was left alone for the time being, as Foster withdrew his motion to cut the position; and the elementary music program, estimated to cost the district $120,000 next year, was spared.

The board currently has six trustees following the resignation last month of Tom Kinoshita.

During the March 22 meeting and last night’s meeting, members of the public were vocal in support of these programs.

Live Oak Student Body President Wesley LaPorte told trustees that they needed to consider the number of students that would be affected if the ASB clerk position was cut.

“If you look at the position in terms of the sheer number of lives that would be affected by the loss, then her position is invaluable,” he said.

The ASB clerk handles the vast number of student accounts for clubs and organizations and for events such as dances and proms and takes in athletic program receipts. Yearbook money, ASB cards and parking permits are also handled by the clerk

To the consideration that the money for the clerk’s salary come from ASB funds, LaPorte said taking the students’ money to pay for her salary is not an option.

“We have a project that we have been working on to provide video communication to every classroom (using any interest gained from ASB funds),” he said. “You need to carefully consider before you make a decision on this.”

ASB Director Norm Dow said the financial position of the Live Oak ASB is what brought the position under the ax in the first place.

“This position is at every high school,” he said. I’m convinced that this position would never have been dreamed of being axed if it wasn’t the fact the ASB department was financially sound and someone thought they might be able to force students, or I think blackmail, to use their money to pay for a bookkeeper.”

Thomas said she would not want Live Oak students to use their money to pay for the clerk position.

“This is the children’s money,” she said. “Just like I won’t take candy from a baby, I won’t take their money for this position. This is an essential component of the school … If we don’t have a plan for what we’re going to do, I’m concerned. This would be fundamentally wrong. There’s no way I can support it.”

Superintendent Carolyn McKennan, when asked by Thomas if the vote to cut would mean the position would be cut or there would be a shift in resources to use ASB money to pay for the salary, McKennan said, “The attempt was to shift resources to another account.”

Another controversial cut, the elimination of one district nurse, was tabled. Trustees had heard from the nurses themselves at the March 22 meeting, and, as Foster said, had “dealt with this last year.”

Assistant Superintendent Denise Tate told trustees May 15 is the deadline they have if they decide to make this cut.

Thomas said she could not consider cutting a nurse’s position in order to open the new Sobrato High School, scheduled to open in August.

“We’re cutting now because we want to open a new school,” she said. “Electricity (for Sobrato) versus a nurse. We need to weigh the reason we’re making the cuts.”

District nurses perform testing – hearing, vision, scoliosis – mandated by the state. Current district nurses have told trustees that what they are required to do by the state for the entire district cannot be completed by just one nurse.

One of the most emotion-generating programs the district has considered cutting, both last year and this year, is the elementary music program for 4th-6th graders. When it was on the chopping block last year, parents stormed board meetings to speak out against cutting it. The Live Oak Emerald Regime band boosters stepped forward and contributed $28,000 so the program could stay alive.

This year, $120,000 is needed to keep the program, which receives decreasing funding from a Cultural Initiatives grant, alive. The program survived this round of cuts.

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